Monday, September 26, 2011

A weekend of incredible performances

I haven't blogged for ages but there were a few performances that were just so incredible that I wanted to get back on to the PC and write about them. So, in no particular order, congratulations to

Patrick Makau, who ran a new marathon world record at Berlin of 2 hours 3 minutes and 38 seconds. Yes, 2.03.38. I'm beginning to believe that the sub 2 hour marathon may actually happen within my liefetime.

Debbie Martin Consani, who in her first ever 24 hour race ran an incredible 208.057 kilometres (129.3 miles) at the Commonwealth championships at Llandudno in Wales. On the way Debbie set a new Scottish record for 200km of 22 hours 28 minutes and 47 seconds.

In the same race, and also in her first 24 hour race, Sharon Law covered 204.017 km (126.8 miles). Sharon broke the Scottish 100 mile record during her run, covering the 100 mile distance in 16 hours 51 minutes 56 seconds. The Scottish team of Debbie, Sharon and Pauline Walker won the team bronze medals.

The 24 hour race was won in a new world record distance. Lizzie Hawker, who was first lady in the UTMB a few weeks ago, covered 247.076 km (153.5 miles). She won the overall race (men and women) and led England to the team gold medals.

Equally inspiring was the performance of Hazel Macfarlane of Troon Tortoises at the River Ayr Way race. Hazel is blind, but covered the 40 mile race in just over 9 hours.

And finally, the performance of the European Solheim Cup team needs a mention. The European team was behind with only 3 matches left on the course, but finished really strongly to win by 15-13. Suzann Pettersen finished with 3 birdies to go from one down to win her match by one hole.

Incredible, and inspiring, from them all.

Friday, June 10, 2011

A week to go...

... until the WHW race and I can't wait. May not be running this year but in many ways that means I can enjoy the build up more, without all the normal taperitis symptoms. This time next week we'll be at Milngavie, registering the first few runners, and feeling the excitement build as we approach the 1 o'clock start. I'll be doing the checkpoint at Balmaha, then going up to Rowardennan to see the last runners through, then heading to Beinglas to see everything is ok there. After that I'll get a wee bit sleep in a wigwam at Auchtertyre, before heading to Fort William in time to welcome the winner in to the leisure centre. I reckon I'll be there doing the times until everyone is finished, and will then go on to do the prizegiving. Throughout the day I'll try and keep in touch with santababy's crew and make sure she's doing ok. I'm sure she'll be great.

It'll be hectic, but brilliant. We're priviliged to be part of such a fantastic event. Good luck to everyone taking part, and to their crews. And a huge thanks to all the officials and helpers, cause it couldn't happen without you. Look forward to seeing you all at some point over the weekend.

Saturday, May 28, 2011


I've just read Debs' excellent summary of her May running, and shamelessly have stolen her idea of giving a quick summary as a way of getting round my pathetic lack of blogging. So here goes.

The Fling took place on 30 April and once again I had a bit of a nightmare - in fact even more of a nightmare - than the last few years. Perhaps not surprisingly I suffered a bit of 'Couldn't Be Arsed' syndrom and didn't do much running for the first 2 weeks in May. The big exception to that was a long trip down the coast on the Wednesday after the Fling to my old home town of Troon for the 10k. There were a few reasons for going all that distance for a 10k: it's organised by my old club, it's a brilliant course and route, and all aspects of the organisation are superb, in fact as good as I've seen at any race I've done, anywhere. If you are looking for a fast, high quality 10k and can make it down to Ayrshire, then this is the one to do. I can't recommend it highly enough. Even the wind was the right way round this year, behind us just when we needed it on the last km up the prom.

The main reason for going though was that it was my 100th 10k. I ran a lot better than I expected and finished in 41.41, a time I was more than happy with. Now, I accept it's still quite a bit away from the sub 40s I used to be able to bash out with great regularity, but the fact that I still had the Fling miles in my legs it gave me a lot of hope there are better times to come, especially if I focus a bit more on speed in my training.

Most of my other runners were focused around Sandra's West Highland Way training. Last week we did 2 days on the route itself - on Day 1 Sandra ran from Balmaha to Tyndrum, then from Tyndrum to Fort William on Day 2. I followed the same kind of pattern on both days: dropped her at the start, ran up the route a bit, ran back to meet her and then back to (or a bit beyond) the car, then did it all again. I found it incredibly enjoyable, completely pressure free running, and ended up doing some decent and quality mileage - about 17 on Day 1 and 21 on Day 2, which worked out at half of what Sandra had done. As reported on Sandra's blog the weather was not great, particularly on Day 2, but it didn't really detract at all from what was an excellent 2 days.

Last night we met a group at Balmaha at 10.30pm for our annual 'WHW Headtorch Run' We've done this for a few years now and when Richie e-mailed at the start of the week to see if we were up for it again I was delighted. As well as being an opportunity to do something a bit different with a good group of friends, it was a good chance for Sandra to try out her headtorch on a section of the route where she'll definitely need it on race day.

We left Milngavie just after 11pm and had an enjoyable, although pretty uneventful, run up to Drymen and then on up through the forest. Not long after passing the car park at Garadhban forest I had a call from Richie, who was a bit ahead, saying the route was completely blocked with trees and that it was a nightmare to get through. He recommended giving it a miss and taking the diversion, which unfortunately meant turning back, down a back road into Drymen, the right along the main road to Balmaha. Sandra and I decided to take his advice and headed towards the road. Keith went on but took a wrong turn and finished up on the road, a bit in front of us. The rest made it through but with some impressive cuts, scrapes and bruises. Although it wasn't what we had planned, it didn't detract from the night and we ended up doing around 20 miles, pretty much what we had expected to do. We just hadn't wanted to be on the road that much, but hey ho. There were signs saying the trees should be cleared by 10 June, so here's hoping there are no delays - the race would be a nightmare if that section was still in its current state.

So that's about it for my May running. We had a lovely training run round Glenartney with Phil when we were out there one Sunday. I've run to and from work a couple of times a week, often heading along the canal and River of Leith walkway to make it a decent run. We're doing the Dundlane Hydro 7.5 mile road race tomorrow, a race I've never done before and one that I'm looking forward to. My mileage this month is looking very low after the poor first 2 weeks - only about 120 so far - but I'm not concerned about that at all, and would rather get some more fast(er) work done at the moment than concentrate on mileage. Over the last couple of weeks we've spent a bit of time helping out at races: we were at the Scottish 5K championships at Granton helping Adrian (where it was torrential rain and pretty cold), and then marshalling at last week's Cateran Trail race (where it was torrential rain and pretty cold). There's also been quite a bit of work in pulling everything together for the WHW race, so things haven't been quiet.

Less than 3 weeks to go now to the WHW. Bring it on!

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Ding ding the Highland Fling (or 'That was a Helluva Long Way')

Yesterday was the Highland Fling. 53 miles up the West Highland Way from Milngavie to Tyndrum. I finished in 12 hours 24 minutes. Not a great time, and my worst of all 6 Flings I have done, but I got there. Eventually.

It was a very hot day. I didn't start too fast and rached Drymen in 1.55, which felt sensible. As I made my way down Conic Hill with a few other 7am starters, we were passed by the first 3 runners from the 8am start. I had been running at that stage for 3 hours 10 minutes, so it only took the leaders 2 hours 10 mins to catch me. The 3 of them (Jez plus 2 others who I didn't recognise) came down the hill like it was a hill race. One minute we heard them approach from behind, and the next they were disappearing further and further away down the hill. It was incredible to see.

I descended at a much more sensible (girly) pace and made it into Balmaha at about 3 hours 20 mins. Quick stop, then off again up the loch. Quite a number of the 8am starters passed me at this bit, including Neal who passed not long before Rowardennan. It was starting to get really hot and I wasn't feeling very comfortable, but was pleased to reach the half way point in just over 5 hours. Some of the Harmeny relay runners had a chat with me there as I sorted out my drinks, but I wasn't at my most chatty. Apologies to you all for my grumpiness.

It was a long slog to Inversnaid, getting hotter and hotter, and then I had the usual slog scrambling over the rocks at the top half of Loch Lomond. I felt very emotional when I reached Dario's post - the first time I had seen it - but I was well behind schedule, and even more so as I came down the hill towards Beinglas Farm. As I got nearer the bottom I saw DQ who told me Sandra had fallen and had had to pull out. That was worrying, and more so as she wasn't there when I arrived at the checkpoint. Neil MacR told me that she had had a very heavy fall but seemed ok now; a few minutes later Sandra appeared, bandaged from head to toe, but in reasonably positive spirits considering the fall she had had. At that stage I had serious thoughts of pulling out too but decided to tough it out. Reluctantly I left the checkpoint and headed slowly up the hill towards Derrydarroch.

After a few minutes I met Gavin McK, who seemed to be struggling at that stage too. We ran (or more accurately walked) together for a while before he managed to get himself going again. I kept telling myself to keep moving forward and eventually got to Derrydarroch, then the underpass, then passed the cows, then reached Bogle Glen, and eventually I found myself crossing the A82 again with just over 3 miles to go. The last few miles were no easier than the previous 20, but I kept running when I could and walking when I couldn't. Eventually I reached the wood at Tyndrum and ran slowly to the end, crossing the line in 12.24.

I went right away for a shower, as I was starting to feel a bit cold. The facilities at By The Way were excellent - the shower was superb - and I though it was a much better finishing point, not least because it was about a quarter of a mile before the previous one!

Andy Cole offered us a lift back to Milngavie - thanks Andy, it was greatly appreciated - and we arrived back at the car just before 10. A quick coffee and something to eat at Macdonalds, then the drive back through to Edinburgh. I had to stop at one stage and stretch my legs as cramp was coming on, but we made it home without further mishap.

Sandra's feeling a bit sore today, but hopefully she hasn't done any long term damage and will be running again before too long. From my point of view I'm just glad I won't need to cover that bit of the WHW again for a while. It's a beautiful route, but I'm not sure I was able to fully appreciate it yesterday.

A huge thanks to everyone involved in the organisation of yesterday's event. There is so much work put in by so many people, and it is all appreciated. A special thanks however to the main organisers, Murdo, Ellen and Tim. And finally an apology to anyone who chose yesterday for a quiet walk on the WHW, and found themselves having to step continually to the side of the path to let around 400 runners past. Apart from one walker who greeted me with a 'Oh for God's sake, we're allowed to be on this route too you know', everyone was very pleasant and encouraging.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

A few milestones on the horizon

At the moment I'm faffing around a bit with my own running: no real targets of my own, but quite enjoying going out and doing various events as they appear, without any great pressure about times or (perish the thought) PBs. However a quick look at my spreadsheet of races shows I've a few milestones coming up over the next wee while. I've done 99 10ks to date, so my next 10k will (somewhat obviously) be my 100th. With a bit of luck this will happen on Wednesday 4 May at my old stomping ground of Troon, which seems a very appropriate place for it. I would love to get back below 40 minutes but that looks well out of reach at this stage, and it won't help that I will probably have done the Highland Fling a few days earlier.

I'm also not that far away from my 100th half marathon. I've done 90 so far and am doing between 2 and 6 a year, so will hopefully reach this one in the next couple of years or so. In the mid 1990s the half marathon was definitely my favourite distance, and I managed to knock them out regularly in the low 1.20s or even faster for quite a few years. Changed days indeed - 1.30 now looks an aspirational target for me - although it is still a distance I really enjoy. I've only done the Great North Run once (in 1994, when I didn't have a great run and still finished in 1.21!) but it is definitely a race I would like to go back and do again. I also fancy doing a few more of the Scottish island races. I've done island races on Arran, Coll, Islay and Mull, all great wee events, but there are a lot of others on my 'to do' list such as Stornoway, Harris, Skye (is Skye still an island?), Benbecula and Orkney.

My 100th marathon/ultra will probably take a wee bit longer to get to, but will hopefully happen in the next few years. I've now done 81 marathons and ultras, doing between 4 and 7 a year for the last few years. Like the half marathon, there are lots of marathons and ultras I'd love to do. I think it's about time I went back to do London - the only 'real' marathon in the UK, or so a lot of the newspaper commentators would have us believe - which I have done 7 times before, but not since 2002. I'd also love to do New York again, although the race entry fee of 350 US dollars (ffs!) definitely puts me off. There's no way any standard road marathon is worth that. The Medoc Marathon has always struck me as my perfect event - a marathon with a different wine at every mile - and I am already thinking it would be a great one to do for my 100th. I'm also keen to keep doing Loch Ness - my favourite road marathon anywhere - and to go back again to visit my brother in the south of France for the French Riviera Marathon from Nice along the coast to Cannes. Of the ultras, I fancy doing the Comrades one year but perhaps surprisingly don't have any great notion yet to do the UTMB. I would however love to be around Chamonix when the event was on, and get a proper feel of what it is like.

So much to do....

Monday, March 28, 2011

Two more ultras

Since last posting a couple of weeks ago, I've moved into full 'ultra racing' mode. Last weekend we travelled up to Aberdeen for the D33, the first race in the SUMS series and a really nice 33 mile out and back route from Duthie Park in Aberdeen to Banchory. It was a perfect spring day, ideal for running, and I finished in 36th place in 4 hours 40 minutes, just 3 minutes slower than last year's time. My stomach wasn't great throughout, due I think to having breakfast too close to the start. Sandra took 8 minutes off her time from last year and came in a couple of minutes under 5 hours.

There were a number of excellent performances but for me the performance of the day came from Marco, who finished 3rd in a superb 3.38. He has moved to a new level this year, which is great to see. Susan's performance was also fantastic - she ran very strongly throughout to finish in 4.56. Anne Noble from Troon just seems to get quicker and quicker, and picked up the prized for the first super-vet in a time well under 5 hours.

My legs were a bit tight for the early part of the week, but greatly eased by a very pleasant run with Adrian on Tuesday evening. The pace was nice and gentle but it was great to be out there for a run and chat on such a nice spring evening.

And then on to this weekend. Sandra and I had decided to do the Perth 50k, which was taking place alongside the Anglo Celtic Plate 100k at the North Inch. I've run there a couple of times in 24 hour races, and always found it to be a good venue - almost completely flat, but very scenic but great to see all the support at the end of each 1.5 mile lap. One of the main reasons for going was to give our support to the Scottish team, particularly to Thomas, Debbie and Sharon, who were making their international debuts. Unfortunately Sharon had problems with her stomach and had to withdraw, but Thomas and Debbie both ran absolute stormers - Thomas finishing in 7 hours 42 minutes, and Debbie in 9 hours 3 minutes. It was great to see. They had both worked incredibly hard for it and fully deserved all the congratulations that came their way. To make things even better Thomas was part of the winning Scotland team - the first time Scotland have ever won the men's event in the Anglo Celtic Cup.

I ran a very sensible and steady race. It was 21 laps of 2.38k each, so in my mind I divided it into 3 sections of 7 laps each. The first 7 laps were probably my worst - I didn't feel very comfortable for the first few laps and needed a couple of toilet stops. After a toilet stop at the end of lap 6 I was about a quarter of a lap behind Sandra, who was running very steadily, and I knew I would have my work cut out to catch her. I managed to pick things up a bit and went through the 7 lap point in 1.31, continued to run better, then passed Sandra about lap 9. The 2nd 7 laps were faster than the first - 1.27 I think - and then I kept the same pace for the last 7, finishing in 4.26.30. Sandra continued to run well throughout and finished in an excellent 4.38.21, a full 9 minutes faster than her time for the same course last year.

So that's us almost reached the end of March. I've always seen the period from January to March as phase 1 of the WHW race training plan, so we (or more specifically Sandra, as I'm not running in this year's race) are now at the end of that. Phase 2 in April and May will include a lot more specific training on the route itself, including the Highland Fling race at the end of April and a 2 day training run in May, before the start of the dreaded taper in early June.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Inverness half marathon

Just a very quick post to mention that we made it back safely from the wild Highlands, where I finished the Inverness half marathon in 1.32.40. I worked as hard as I could but there isn't a great deal of speed in the legs at the moment. The conditions were quite tough: very cold and windy, with rain and snow from time to time. Despite the relatively poor time (it is the 17th time I have run this race and my slowest so far) I really enjoyed it, and was even more delighted to see Sandra finish in a massive PB of 1.42.44. I'm sure she'll update her own blog in due course, but in the meantime a very big well done to her. John Kynaston had a superb 1.25 and made page 1 of the results, well inside the top 50, and Robert Kinnaird also showed the great form he is in at the moment with an excellent 1.29. Katrina Kynaston, in what I think was her first half marathon, finished well inside her target time and achieved an excellent 2.01. She'll be well under 2 hours on a better day. As ever, the organisation was great and it was a first class event. I'm sure we'll be back.

It was my 90th half marathon. I'm beginning to think about getting to 100...

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Loads of running

It's been a busy weekend. 24 miles yesterday along one of the most boring routes we could find - out along the main road past the airport and on to Broxburn, then back in to Edinburgh along the canal - then a much more pleasant 12 mile run in the Pentlands today. The boring run was chosen deliberately, to give us a bit of prep on a very flat route prior to the D33, and the hilly run in the Pentlands was a good training run on tired legs. That gives me 61 miles for the week, which is my highest for ages. I need to get a few more quality sessions in, which I'll aim to do this week, but apart from that I'm really pleased with how this year's training is going.

I also managed a few holes golf yesterday afternoon at Auchterarder with my boy. That's the first time we have been able to get out this year and it was a lovely day, with hardly anyone else on the course. Neither of us had played for 6 months or so and we were both a bit rusty, but it was great to get out there.

As mentioned on my last posting, I ran the National Cross Country at Falkirk last weekend. As always I enjoyed it, even though I seem to be finishing further and further down the field - 290th this year, from around 450 finishers. I've been doing the National for almost 20 years, and looking around the start line it was great to see many of the same faces. It's like a gathering of old friends.

Finally, we had a West Highland Way Race committee meeting this week, and it's good to see that it all seems to be under control: there are less than 4 months to go now, so no doubt it will be with us in no time. It's a bit odd knowing I am not running in it this year, having done it for so long, but I have to say that I'm really enjoying the lack of 'WHW pressure' on me this time round. I'm also enjoying doing the long runs with Sandra, who is doing the race for the first time, and helping her put together her training plan for the race. I think she is exactly where she should be at this stage, and I'm looking forward to seeing her progress as she builds up the long runs over the next few months.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The 3 Hills of Edinburgh

I'm on holiday today - my body probably needed to catch up on some sleep as I slept for 13 hours solid - and I managed to persuade (birthday girl) Sandra to come out a run round 'The 3 Hills of Edinburgh'. This is the abridged version of the slightly better known '7 Hills of Edinburgh' route. The route starts from my flat, heads along the back of Craiglockhart Sports Centre and up to the top of Craiglockhart Hill, and then across to Braid Hill. It then crosses the golf course and road, heads up to the top of Blackford Hill, and follows a choice of route back to the flat in Morningside. In total it is between 6 and 7 miles, depending on the exact route chosen. Today we took the longer route back and made it up to a 7.

It is a fantastic run which, despite not leaving the centre of Edinburgh, is almost all off-road. Normally the views from each hill top are fantastic but today there was a thick fog, so no view at all. Despite that it was a thoroughly enjoyable run, and we both feel all the better for having been out there.

What else has been happening on the running front? I did a the Forfar multi-terrain half marathon a couple of weeks ago. It was a great fun event with a bit of everything - trails, roads, hills, paths and even a 200m section through a knee high river - and I felt happy enough with my 1.39 finish, even though it was a half marathon PW (personal worst) by quite some way. This Saturday it is the National Cross Country at Falkirk. I love this event. All the top runners are there, and it is a privilege to be able to take part in the same race, albeit at the other end of the field. It will be my 18th National - the first was way back in 1992, at Irvine - and it is always a great chance to catch up with many old friends, as well as take part in a very tough and testing 12k cross country. I've always thought it is an excellent training session for some of the ultras coming up, even though it may not feel approaching the end of the second lap, knowing I have to do it all again.

March will be busy with the Inverness half marathon on 13 March, followed by the D33 the following weekend. And then it will be time for the clocks to go forward - woo hoo! I've never been the biggest fan of the long dark winter nights, and I'm enjoying seeing the days getting longer and the temperatures getting a bit milder. It was light walking to work at 7.30am the other day, and still light that evening until almost 5.30pm. Before we know out we'll be able to get out on these Edinburgh hills, without a headtorch and in shorts and light top, long in to the evening. Bring it on!

Sunday, January 23, 2011


It's been a while since I last blogged. In that time my life has changed significantly: I've separated from Alison, I've moved through to Edinburgh, and I'm in a new relationship with Sandra. It's not been an easy period, but I've had a lot of support from a lot of people, and hopefully things are now starting to come together. Thanks to everyone who has given me that support - it has been greatly appreciated.

I've managed to keep my running going through the turmoil and through the awful weather. I joined a few friends in November in doing the 'Keithathon' (running every day for a minimum of 3 miles or 25 minutes) and, having quite enjoyed the discipline of it, decided to keep going for December's 'Marcothon' (the same type of challenge but, as it was in December, lasting a day longer). I completed that, ran for the first 9 days in January to make it 10 consecutive weeks of running, and then had a day off. To be honest I'm not at all convinced running every day is a good thing to do, but it helped get me out there at a time when my motivation might have been otherwise lacking. It also meant I managed to reach the 2,000 miles for 2010 - 2,035 miles to be precise - and so I finally achieved one of the goals I had set myself for the year.

What about 2011? To be honest I haven't really set myself any targets or it given it a huge amount of thought. For the first time for many years I am not doing the WHW race - I'll be much more involved in the organisation this year, as well as trying to help Sandra who is running it for the first time - so that gives me a chance to do a few other things. Having said that I've already entered some familiar races: I'm in the National Cross Country championship (February), the Inverness half marathon (March), the D33 (March), the Cateran Trail (May) and the Devil of the Highlands (August), and although I haven't entered it yet suspect I'll be back at the Highland Fling (April). I'm even thinking about another 24 hour race later in the year, but that depends on how everything else goes.

I'm also thinking about joining an Edinburgh based club. I'd like to get my 10k and half marathon times down a bit, but to do that I know that I'll have to work a bit harder in training. In that respect training with a local club would be ideal, so if anyone has any recommendations then please let me know.

Yesterday, for the first time for ages, I was up on the WHW for a training run. 9 of us ran from Drymen, up and over Conic Hill to Balmaha, before I headed back to Drymen along the road. The rest of the group headed on towards Rowardennan, with a few completing the run back to Balmaha and Drymen. It was great to be back out on the WHW route - although a few sections of Comic Hill were a bit slippy - and really good to meet a couple of people I hadn't met before. I saw the boys in the afternoon then headed back to Balmaha, where we had a fantastic night at the Oak Tree Inn. It was a superb weekend.